Copyright law


Period of copyright is 70 years after death, or if the work was published outside the EU and the composer/author was resident outside the EU at that time, copyright exists for the length dictated by the country of publication/residence, unless this would exceed the 70 years after death of the EU in which case the 70 year period would apply.


Since 1996 Britain has enacted the EU copyright harmonization laws, thus making British copyright the same as EU law. Prior to this, the period was 50 years after death, but according to the new copyright act (1996) works which were out of copyright on Jan. 1st 1996 remain in that state unless the copyright owner restores copyright on the work. This can be done only if the work was published in another EU member state that had a longer term of copyright i.e. Germany which had the 70 year period. In cases of restored copyright the owner of the copyright cannot stop publication by a third party, but the said third party must pay royalties to the copyright owner.

Other countries

Giving that EU copyright law also relies in some cases on the period set in other countries, the following information is useful.


Before 1978 copyright was based on publication date, after this date it was based on date of death. Any works that were created after Jan. 1st 1978 the copyright is 70 years after death (it had been 50 years but was changed to harmonize with the EU law.) Works that had been written but had not been previously published or copyrighted in 1978 have copyright until Dec. 31st 2047. Works published before 1978 the term is 95 years after publication, unless they were already out of copyright in 1978 where the previous term would apply, thus works published before 1923 are out of copyright. Works that were out of copyright because they were not published in the USA or copyrighted there can now have their copyright restored by the copyright owner, to a term equivalent to what it would have been if the work had been copyrighted/published in the USA.

Other countries

Most other countries have a term of 50 years after death.


U.K. Government - Intellectual Property Copyright FAQs

U.S. Copyright Office

U.S. Copyright Term Extension Final Summary

EUROPA - Summaries of EU legislation - internal market: intellectual property

Notice: This article discusses general legal issues of interest and is not designed to give any specific legal advice concerning any specific circumstances. It is important that professional legal advice be obtained before acting upon any of the information contained in this article.